‘As you know academic level 1 / 2 certificates, sometimes known as IGCSEs, were first counted in school performance tables from June 2010.’
Nick Gibb, letter
to awarding organisations, January 2015,attempting to explain why IGCSEs will no longer count.
This odd pronouncement ignores the fact that GCSEs as well as IGCSEs have been described as level 1/2 certificates. Department for Education (DfE) guidance about EBacc
makes this clear. And GCSEs will continue to be labelled level 1/2 even when ‘reformed’. For example, the DfE says Pearson Edexcel level 1/2 GCSE in computer science and WJEC level 1/level 2 GCSE in computer science will be eligible for EBacc from this summer. Is Gibb really saying these two level 1/level 2 exams will only count from 2015 to 2017, a mere two years?
Nick Gibb appears to think only IGCSEs are level 1/2 certificates. He claims they’re not as rigorous as reformed GCSEs and their inclusion in league tables would undermine the integrity of the new ‘gold standard qualification at age 16’.
But IGCSEs have been offered by many independent schools for years. Leave aside the argument about whether they are tougher than conventional GCSEs or easier, the Tories promised to include IGCSEs in school league tables in their 2010 Election Manifesto to create a level playing field between private and state schools. This was one promise they kept (unlike the one about there being no top down reorganisation of the NHS). But now they’ve changed their mind.
That playing field has not just become uneven again but is filled with hidden obstacles (is this exam in or out?) and muddy patches (is GCSE a level 1/2 certificate or not?). And the referee (or is it the linesman?) doesn’t seem to have a clue about what constitutes an official ball.
Michael Gove’s rushed exam reforms have caused chaos, instability and uncertainty. And Nick Gibb, in an attempt to show reformed GCSEs are as good as exams in other developed countries (most of which don’t have high stakes exams at 16), has added to the confusion by not appearing to know that GCSEs are Level 1/2 qualifications.
Exam reform is becoming an increasingly mad version of the hokey cokey:
‘You put IGCSE in,
In, out, in, out,
You shake it all about.
You do the Govey Cokey, and you turn around.
That’s what it’s all about.’
Our children and our schools deserve better than this farce.
20 January 2015. It appears the Level1/2 certificates which Nick Gibb was referring to were IGCSE-style
qualifications. There are other IGCSE which aren’t labelled Level1/2 certificates. These are just plain IGCSEs (for example Edexcel IGCSE English Language). These IGCSEs counted in league tables for the last time in 2013. According to the official EBacc list (downloadable here
), schools will be expected to move from these IGCSEs to the ‘regulated version’. This is a U-turn from Nick Gibb’s statement
in June 2010:
‘It’s not for government to decide which qualifications pupils should take, or to force the development of new qualifications…’.
But confusion still reigns. According to the approved list, AQA Level 1/2 certificate in History and AQA Level 1/2 Certificate in Geography (both labelled IGCSE-style
) ‘will count in the performance measures for the first time in 2016.’ In, out, in, out. As I said – it’s a farce.
The only rational response is for schools to ignore whether exams are counted in league tables and offer exams which best suit their pupils and ensure continuity.